It was hard. Two jobs, countless hours volunteering, a torn household, on top of being a full time student desperate to transfer to the school of my dreams. There were days when all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and cry, even if I knew I'd only feel worse for it. No matter what I did, I felt like I didn't have the right outlet to get rid of all the negativity that plagued me, and nothing ever interested me enough. Going to gym often heightened my self esteem issues, and most days I got home too late to go for a run (one of my best, previous ways to relieve stress).
It wasn't until one of my good friends, a budding follower of femininity and frequent user of cannabis, suggested meditation. Not going to lie, I thought it was complete b.s. at first—all those images of crystals, candles, and Mandala tapestries didn't quite fit my idea of a good time. But, as my friend painstakingly explained, meditation doesn't have to be like that if you don't want it to be. Desperate to find a way to crawl out of the headspace I found myself in all too often, I looked more into it. What I found changed my life.
There are many ways to meditate. The oldest are Buddhist practices that span back centuries, calling for those doing it to sit in a lotus position, and follow written words from the Zazen teachings. The most popular kind of meditation today is called Mindfulness Meditation, which is even taught in schools and hospitals. Mindfulness is described as "...the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise."
I have tried others, like metta meditation, which focuses on loving and kindness, as well as Transcendental Meditation, which is a rather flamboyant branch that the Beatles enjoyed, but I found myself continuing to return to Mindfulness Meditation, simply because it cleared my mind the best, and allowed me to feel more in the present with whatever I did.
The first time I tried it did not go well. I sat there for what felt like hours, utterly bored and also a little stressed that I wasn't 'doing it right'. It wasn't until I stumbled across this article that detailed all of the worries a new meditator might have that I felt myself becoming more at ease with the process.
I've been doing this for about 5 months and there's still so much to learn. There's comfort, I've found, in simply setting aside some time per day to take care of my mental health. No matter where I went, or who I was with—on a friend's floor on a lazy night in, or 3000 miles away in a tiny bedroom in the heart of Tokyo—meditation was something I had to look forward to after a long and stressful day.
I know that meditation is not for everyone. For some, it might seem scary and stressful to even try to turn the brain off, but I am a firm believer in trying anything at least once. In this case, it paid off. Meditation can help with establishing a healthier headspace, and the community is one of the friendliest and most helpful I've seen. The practice itself is hundreds of years old and there is a type and method of meditation out there for everyone.
Mindful.org is one of the best places start, in my personal opinion, and apps like Calm or Headspace can provide comfort in the form of guided meditation or music. It's easy to get lost in the never ending noise of our fast paced lives and feel so utterly lost and alone in one's worries, but finding the time for some mental healing is a great way to start the process of becoming a happier and healthier person.